Lamento di Federico

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Derek McGovern

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Dec 2, 2007, 7:31:07 PM12/2/07
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I'd like to start a discussion thread on recordings of the memorable
aria E' la Solita Storia, better known as the Lamento di Federico,
from Francesco Cilea's seldom-performed opera L'Arlesiana.

The Lamento was obviously a favourite of Mario's, since he began many
of his concerts with the aria, blithely unconcerned about the high B
natural near the end - a potentially dangerous note for a recitalist's
first number. This tells us how comfortable he was vocally, as it's
fairly standard practice for singers to warm up their voices in
recital with a few undemanding pieces before tackling something this
difficult.

Of course, many tenors choose not to sing the high B - Carreras is one
of them - and we can hardly blame them for avoiding a killer note that
isn't even in Cilea's score. (Though if you've got the note, then why
not flaunt it? :-)) It was Gigli who started the tradition of
interpolating the note, as he explains in an interesting section of
his autobiography:

"Some critics [...] reproached me for introducing into the concluding
phrase of the aria a B natural which they could not find in the score.
I did it with Cilea's full consent. Federico is expressing all the
pent-up sorrow of his life; I felt convinced this this called for a
dramatic crescendo at the end of the aria, not a lyrical fading-away.
'Mi fai tanto male - ahime!' No, I could *not* let my voice trail off
on that 'ahime'! I had to sing a B natural if I was to sing it at all.
Cilea not only came around to my point of view; he told me that he
liked it much better than what he had written himself. The audience
seemed to like it too, for they invariably demanded an encore."

I think Gigli's right: it's something of a letdown when singers omit
the B, and I for one *need* that "dramatic crescendo". But it's
interesting that Cilea ended up agreeing with Gigli about its
emotional validity. Gigli, incidentally, is quite frank in his book in
his assessment of Cilea the man and the composer:

"[Cilea] was a man of stern moral and artistic integrity, a little
old-fashioned and perhaps not greatly inspired. The thing about him
that appealed to me most was his innocence. There is not very much to
be said about his music. It is gently idyllic, lacking in vitality,
derivative. Here it recalls Verdi, there Ponchielli, in another place
Boito, and throughout, inescapably, Alfredo Catalani. But it has a
lyric beauty and melodic elegance of its own with which I feel a
certain affinity."

Gigli was certainly right about the melodic lyricism of Cilea's music
(Adriana Lecouvreur - his most well-known opera - overflows with it).
And this is especially true of the Lamento, which is also one of the
most hauntingly melancholic arias in the tenor repertoire.

That is, of course, if it's sung in the style that its composer
intended. Of Lanza's four complete versions, for instance, only one of
them - his 1948 Toronto performance - is sung lyrically (and in the
appropriately lyric voice). On his 1955 and 1958 versions, Mario sings
the aria as though were a dramatic aria. And yet it works! The Albert
Hall rendition, in particular - sung in a voice that's even darker
than it was in Serenade three years earlier - is a very long way
indeed from what Cilea intended, yet it's a supremely exciting piece
of singing. In fact, the audience probably didn't know quite what had
hit it - which might explain their somewhat restrained response to
this, the opening number.

But certainly the words of the aria do nothing to discourage a
dramatic approach, e.g., "I will never find peace! / Why must I suffer
so much pain? / She, always she, talks to my heart! / Fateful vision,
go away! Ah! You hurt me so much! Alas!", etc. Who can therefore blame
the tenor who interprets such sentiments with Mediterranean passion
rather than with dignified restraint?

(Interestingly, Nicolai Gedda, who was present at Lanza's first Albert
Hall concert, adopts a similarly dramatic approach to that of Mario in
one of his concert performances of this aria.)

Is there a perfect Lanza rendition of this aria? Probably not - though
I've yet to hear a version by anyone else that's more compelling than
either the Albert Hall or Serenade versions or as touching as the
Toronto performance. The Toronto version would almost certainly be the
purist's choice of Lanza's renditions, notwithstanding the fact that
Mario makes up an entire line :-) (He sings, "La pace solta e' solo a
me" - a line that makes no sense - instead of "La pace sol cercando io
vo'", but what a recovery he makes!)

Usually, I find it easy to identify my favourite Lanza rendition of a
particular song or aria, but not in this instance. For years, it was
the 1955 Serenade soundtrack version. In fact, I didn't even know that
an earlier live performance existed until a decade or so ago. Now I
play the Toronto version at least as often as I do the Serenade
rendition - if not more. But listening to the intense Albert Hall
version while writing this post today, I was again reminded of the
fact that, putting aside its stylistic and musical deviations, it's
one heck of a performance as well.

So which of Lanza's four versions do you like best - and why? Are
there renditions by other tenors that you prefer to Lanza's? (I
imagine that the Gigli, Di Stefano and Carreras devotees among us will
have plenty to say about these tenors' recordings.) And if you haven't
heard all of Lanza's renditions, then you'll find the Toronto
performance in its best reproduction so far (with its previously
wayward pitch now corrected by our resourceful Vince di Placido) at
the bottom of our files section on this site, and the 1952 1955, and
1958 renditions here:

http://mariolanza.4shared.com/

(Files don't stay long at the above site, so be quick!)

And for some very interesting technical comments from Armando on
Lanza's four recordings of the Lamento, you may also want to renew
your acquaintance with his post of a few weeks back here:

http://groups.google.com/group/mariolanza/browse_thread/thread/caa102f4d39a22e1/e790513cfc8c7b26?lnk=gst&q=lamento#e790513cfc8c7b26

Finally, here are the words and their English translation:

È la solita storia del pastore.
Il povero ragazzo voleva raccontarla,
e s'addormì.

C'è nel sonno l'oblio.
Come l'invidio!

Anch'io vorrei dormir così,
nel sonno almen l'oblio trovar!
La pace sol cercando io vo',
vorrei poter tutto scordar!
Pur ogni sforzo è vano,
davanti ho sempre di lei
il dolce sembiante!
La pace tolta è sempre a me!
Perchè degg'io tanto penar?
Lei, sempre lei mi parla al cor!
Fatale vision, mi lascia! Ah!
Mi fai tanto male! Ahimè!

It's the oft-told story of the shepherd.
The poor boy wanted to tell it
but he fell asleep.

In sleep there is oblivion.
How I envy him!

If only I could sleep like that,
and find oblivion at least in sleep!
I'm only looking for some peace,
I wish I could forget everything!
But every effort is in vain,
before me I always see
her sweet face!
I will never find peace!
Why must I suffer so much pain?
She, always she, talks to my heart!
Fateful vision, go away! Ah!
You hurt me so much! Alas!

Muriel

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Dec 2, 2007, 10:58:51 PM12/2/07
to Mario Lanza, tenor
My goodness, dear Derek! What a completely wonderful and comprehensive
post! As it turns out, I've recently been listening to Mario's various
Lamentos often myself. I can understand the RAH audience being
slightly stunned by Mario's initial offering as it not the kind of
lighthearted introduction one would expect. But then Mario never did
the expected, did he?

One day, as I was in the Lanza museum, a former scholarship winner and
professional singer, was there at the same time and was looking at one
of Mario's concert programs. Sure enough, it listed Fred's Lament as
the opening aria. The man was quite vocal about the fact that no one
*ever* opens a concert with such a piece!! No one - but - Mario, that
is....

Strangely, I wasn't familiar with L'Arlesiana and had no idea that it
was meant for a light lyric voice. As you say, the lyrics don't
necessarily suggest that. For that reason, I didn't give a thought to
how it should sound. I've always preferred the Serenade Lamento. I
love Mario's voice in this film and am content to listen to this
recording repeatedly. It is just right to me, although in the film his
lip-synching is less than perfect. I'm not fond of his costume and the
angle of the camera at times either. But - his voice conveys the
proper regrettable situation the fellow finds himself in. The vision
of his loved one keeps him from resting in peace! We are moved and
would help him if we could.

My second favorite is the 1948 Toronto recording. Here Mario reaches
into our hearts, no matter what lyrics he makes up! He does have the
correct lyric voice, but that is not what I focus on. He is our young
Mario with the world ahead of him, singing before an appreciative
audience and that is where he belonged. I like his approach to the
aria and his ease in singing it.

Third is the RAH Lamento. I suppose this is the least appropriate aria
for him at this stage, but, as Armando has stated, he succeeds in
carrying it off! It is easy to hear how he seems to be comfortable
singing it and one can imagine him singing it until the end of time.
It thrilled his audience and that was his intent. He probably got a
boost himself, so why not? If I were on the receiving end, I surely
would have been ecstatic!

Last is the 1952 CC recording. Perhaps the most easily sung, but Mario
isn't convincing us of his involvement with the lyrics. Perhaps he
wasn't thinking of the poor man's predicament. Thank goodness, he
recorded this again when he was wiser.

Derek, the history and Cilea's/Gigli's thoughts are interesting to
read. I'm glad Gigli introduced the B, as it supports the intense
emotion of the moment...and in Mario's singing, that emotion was
powerfully convincing.

Bella, bella! Muriel
> http://groups.google.com/group/mariolanza/browse_thread/thread/caa102...

Derek McGovern

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Dec 3, 2007, 10:35:19 PM12/3/07
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Cara Muriella: This may surprise you, but I think I would have to go
with the 1948 Toronto version as my first choice among Lanza's
renditions. It's a toughie, though. I'm basing this purely on the
number of times I've returned to it compared with the Serenade
version, especially since Vince corrected the pitch (which really does
make a difference, as it used to drag so much when it was running
almost a semitone slow).

Of course, the 1955 Serenade version is a wonderful piece of singing
too, and I do prefer the way Mario sings both the opening lines
(especially "Come l'invidio...") here and that astonishing high B at
the end. But the lyric quality in his voice on the 1948 performance,
coupled with the incredible sensitivity of his singing here, gives
this earlier performance the edge, I feel. Mario's also just a little
too histrionic (or "sobby", as Mike would say) in a couple of places
on his Serenade version in a way that doesn't bother me on his equally
thrilling Albert Hall rendition.

But we definitely agree on the fourth placing for the poor old
over-the-top Coke Show version! As I wrote in my Amazon review,
Mario's almost hysterical in his anguish here. I partly blame
Callinicos, though: the tempo's much too fast. If the Coke Show
producers could set aside four and a half minutes to Roses of Picardy
or They Didn't Believe Me on these shows, then they certainly could
have given the Lamento a bit more time to breathe. The Coke Che Gelida
Manina's even worse in this respect: they gallop through it!

Armando

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Dec 3, 2007, 11:58:28 PM12/3/07
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Favourite Lamento:

1) 1948
2) 1955
3) 1958
4) 1952
> ...
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> read more >>

Muriel

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Dec 4, 2007, 12:14:31 AM12/4/07
to Mario Lanza, tenor
Hmmm, *sobby* in Serenade? I'll have to listen for that. I've been
listening to the original Toronto Lamento, so don't know Vince's
version. This aria grows on me. Obviously, Mario enjoyed singing it.
> ...
>
> read more >>- Hide quoted text -
>
> - Show quoted text -
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Derek McGovern

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Dec 4, 2007, 5:08:45 AM12/4/07
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Hi Muriella: Oh, you *must* play Vince's corrected version in our
Files section! It's magnificent.

I've just compared the 1948 and 1955 renditions again on headphones.
The 1955 version is definitely the more exciting of the two, but I
think that what's special about the beauty of Lanza's voice on the
1948 Toronto version is that it has a poignant quality not often
heard
in his early recordings. Ethereal, almost. It's a quality that I
usually associate with the 1958-59 voice, even though the late voice
is a much darker sound than what we hear on the Toronto version.


Do give the Toronto rendition another chance, Muriella; just make
sure it's at the right speed!

Muriel

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Dec 4, 2007, 10:33:52 PM12/4/07
to Mario Lanza, tenor
I'll have to concede, Caro Derek...Hearing the 1948 Lamento over my
computer speakers and with Vince's golden touch, I definitely can
identify that touching emotion in Mario's voice. Oh, to have been in
the audience that night - certainly a night to remember. Okay, put
this first, with 1955 a close second. I'm easy and have an open
heart. I learn something new everyday. Con amore, M.

Derek McGovern

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Dec 25, 2007, 2:05:30 PM12/25/07
to Mario Lanza, tenor
There's actually an elusive *fifth* Lanza rendition of the Lamento di
Federico - a home recording, presumably from 1952, with Callinicos on
the piano. I listened to it yesterday after discovering it among some
old tapes of mine stored at my parents' home. While the sound is very
distorted, it'd be nice to have it transferred to an MP3 file - and
possibly it could be cleaned up a little. From what I could tell,
Mario's in great voice here. On the same tape, there are also complete
home rehearsals from the same period of Che Gelida Manina, Testa
Adorata, and 'A Vucchella - all very badly recorded, but fascinating
nonetheless! Mario tells Callinicos before he sings the Che Gelida
that he wants to find out if he "still has a voice left"; well, he
certainly does :-) There's also an amusing moment near the end of 'A
Vucchella, when Mario stops after "Si" in the line "Si', tu tiene na
vucchella", and then says, "What the hell am I doing? I was right!"

While I can't imagine that this distorted fifth Lamento will ever
supplant Lanza's 1948 or 1955 versions, I'm sure fellow lovers of this
beautiful aria will enjoy hearing it. I'll get on to it in the new
year.

Muriel

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Dec 28, 2007, 5:34:42 AM12/28/07
to Mario Lanza, tenor
As I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the Lamento, I'm
curious about this one, Derek. Let's hope you can dress it up enough
for a little forum presentation. I know I'll be an enthusiastic
listener. Are all of these from around 1952? Sounds like they all have
their poignant moments. Too bad Costa never followed up with a second
bio, revealing more of Mario's fascinating off the record rehearsal
sessions. What a loss, as he possessed quite a sense of humor as
glimpsed in these gems. Ahhhh, molto triste! Ciao...M

Mike McAdam

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Feb 15, 2008, 12:39:55 AM2/15/08
to The Mario Lanza Forum
I notice on RCA's 2001 CD release "Red Seal Century", their showcase
of the top classical singers to ever grace their Red Seal catalogue,
they feature Mario Lanza in the Callinicos-conducted Lamento di
Federico from the Coke Show. A bit dubious as Lanza's Red Seal
portfolio contains some unique and timeless performances, as we know.

It's not his worst Coke operatic outing by far but, are there any A &
R people remaining with these major labels who actually have any
musical chops? Maudit!
M.

Derek McGovern

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Feb 15, 2008, 10:16:37 PM2/15/08
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Hi Mike: Yes, the Coke Lamento was a dubious choice considering the
outstanding material that was overlooked. Anyone listening to Lanza's
performance will be bowled over by the quality of the voice here, but
I don't think that many would be impressed with the overwrought
singing. It's a typical Coke aria - the tempo's much too fast (they
always had to watch the clock!) and Mario's performance is quite
mannered. It doesn't even begin to compare with either the Toronto or
the Serenade renditions. Fantastic B natural at the end, though!

Mannering's brief for this operatic compendium was to choose an
outstanding Lanza performance that was shorter than four minutes.
Sadly, that ruled out things like the Otello Monologue, the
Improvviso, and Che Gelida Manina.

I would have chosen M'Appari' to represent Mario rather than, say, the
1958 Vesti (which doesn't have good sound) or E Lucevan le Stelle.
It's a virtually flawless piece of singing, Lanza's in terrific vocal
shape, and it's the best version I've ever heard by anyone - including
even that of Fritz Wunderlich. The critics would have had a hard time
faulting him on this one - and the public would have loved it.

Vince Di Placido

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Feb 16, 2008, 7:57:15 PM2/16/08
to The Mario Lanza Forum
I know I was very busy back in December but I can't believe I missed
this thread.
I love the 1948 Toronto performance & with Derek's help was able to
truly appreciate it once it ran at the correct speed/pitch. Mario is
just plain beaitiful here & it is my favourite recording of the
Lamento & yes the 1955 recording is a close 2nd. Gigli was spot on
with that interpolated B & it suits Mario perfectly, once you've heard
it that way you want it every time, Gigli obviously had good instincts
(sometimes :-))
Mario's voice reached it's first truly golden age in those years of
1947/48.
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Derek McGovern

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Dec 27, 2010, 4:22:32 AM12/27/10
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I thought I'd revive this thread, this time including links to the four recordings we've been discussing. 

These include one for the best undoctored version I know of Lanza's 1948 performance of the Lamento.

And here's the 1952 Coke version -- complete with Bill Baldwin's introduction as he enthusiastically announces an "arrrrrria" associated with "Carrruso" named the Lamento di "Federrrrrico" from the opera "L'Arrrrlesiana" :) (Mind you, Lanza's just as generous with his "r"s as he announces the following week's aria from "Andrrrrea Chenier"!)  

Plus the complete 1955 Serenade version in excellent sound, and, finally, the 1958 Albert Hall performance.

What are your thoughts, folks? The Coke version's the only rendition of the four that doesn't move me. Mario's in fantastic voice here, but from the very start he seems mannered and choppy, cutting phrases short to satisfy the crazy tempo. There are far worse Coke versions of arias floating around, though, I'd have to admit. 

The two most thrilling performances for my money are the Serenade version (which still contains the best opening and the greatest high B) and the Royal Albert Hall rendition. As Lee Ann reacted when she first heard the latter: "Did he really just do that?"! 

But the 1948 live performance from Massey Hall, Toronto still touches me the most. It's Mario's least emotional version, and yet the most heartbreaking. It's a close call, though, with the Serenade version.



Derek McGovern

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Dec 27, 2010, 4:48:02 AM12/27/10
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A P.S. to the above: the Albert Hall version is taken not from the commercial release, but from an old tape containing the complete concert, with every cough and comment included. (If you play it on headphones, you can hear Mario -- amid some copious throat-clearing -- say to Callinicos, "You wanna play cards?") 

Listening to it just now, I was irritated yet again by the lack-lustre reaction of the audience, especially compared to the applause given to some of the later pieces in the recital. Lanza had just sung his heart out -- and it really is an extraordinary rendition regardless of the musical liberties he takes -- and the audience merely applauds politely. 

I shall charitably assume that many of them were simply stupified by what they'd just heard :)  

leeann

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Dec 30, 2010, 1:20:10 PM12/30/10
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This is such a wonderful thread, I'm just sitting back in appreciation.  Of course, that's not at all unusual on this forum--a penetrating introduction to the aria and those who have sung it, insightful and informative comments, and THEN to top it all off--Derek's consolidation of Lanza's work in different venues and over time: a musical biography, a history. 


This compilation helps illustrate and clarify Lanza's versatility--his musical adaptability to circumstances and to audiences. It seems likely, for example, that the Albert Hall audience might have included a more musically diverse audience than Toronto, given the time and the stage of Lanza's.  It was possible to step out of the boundaries in a way that simply wouldn't have worked in 1948, and in a way that would have been totally inappropriate in Serenade.

How excellent to have access to them all, and to the Coke commentary and raw Albert Hall tapes- (throat garbage and all).

Thank you,  Best, Lee Ann





Vincent Di Placido

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Dec 30, 2010, 2:42:52 PM12/30/10
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I love Mario's singing of the line "Come l'invidio!" in 1948, it is just beautiful & ethereal & is something I play back a few times each time I listen to this recording. Mario's 1948 Lamento is my favourite just because of that magical quality in his voice that night, it is so right for the Lamento, in 1955 Mario is just majestic & that High B is gold, stong, ringing & gives me shivers!
 

Really they are as good as each other just different...
There are some glorious sounds in 1958 & I am astounded Mario opens the program with this aria sung that way. If I was in that audience I would have torn the place up, screaming & clapping, Derek, I can see what you are saying about the audience being a bit reserved, I suppose, but they do give a stong enthusiastic applause, I really do think they weren't ready for the Lamento sung the way it was as the first number, personally I would have been stunned! :-) 
I really would love to hear those 1952 rehearsals sometime... :-)

Derek McGovern

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Jan 1, 2011, 12:42:10 AM1/1/11
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Hi Vince: I get a real kick out of seeing you having fun with photos on this new format!

Yes, ethereal's the perfect word for the 1948 Lamento. I know I probably overuse that adjective (along with "haunting") when I'm describing the best of Mario's 1958-59 recordings, but it's generally not a quality I associate with his earlier voice, which is usually extraordinary for other reasons. Ethereal -- or poignant -- it is here, though. His "Vesti la Giubba" from the same concert also has a very striking plaintive quality that we never really hear again in any of the Hollywood /RCA renditions.

Incidentally, not all Lanza aficionados agree about the Toronto performances. Lindsay Perigo, for example, has said that he "wouldn't have crossed the road" to hear them. Mario was way too restrained here for Linz's taste ("stilted" was the word he used), and he also complained about what he called "some amateur tightening in the vowels" :) I wonder if he'd change his mind about the Lamento if he heard it in the link I gave earlier? Nah, probably not. He's a Coke Lamento man through and through :)

As for the Serenade Lamento, yes, that high B is out of this world. I just wish the scene had been better directed. The ending's good -- and it really looks as though Mario's singing here -- but he's too distant (and slightly out of sync) for much of the aria. Still, the brilliant Otello Monologue scene makes up for it :)

Cheers
Derek

Derek McGovern

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Jan 1, 2011, 2:17:25 AM1/1/11
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Hi Lee Ann: You're so right about audiences. Yes, the crowd that evening in Massey Hall, Toronto, would have been mostly opera lovers who, in all likelihood, knew little or nothing about Lanza. Mario tailored his performance accordingly (though I think it's also true that he was being more careful with his singing at that stage). In contrast, I'd say the audience at the Royal Albert Hall was much more diverse, with the majority probably not regular concertgoers -- in other words, Lanza fans, first and foremost, who would have been there expecting plenty of vocal thrills. And they certainly got them!

But it's interesting that, even at Albert Hall, Mario still stuck to a fairly standard concert programme (operatic arias, art songs, etc). He could so easily have included more popular fare, but instead he reserved the Because You're Mine-type numbers for his encores. I'm sure the fans who snapped up all the tickets to his two Albert Hall recitals in a matter of hours were not expecting the likes of Lasciatemi Morire and Tell Me, Oh Blue Blue Sky! As one critic wrote somewhere during Lanza's final tour, he sang none of his popular hits -- and still the audience loved him.

Cheers
Derek 

Tony Partington

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Jan 9, 2011, 8:33:10 PM1/9/11
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What a great thread and I'm kicking myself for being tardy in posting.  Such wonderful comments about such a beautiful and special aria.  I will be honest at the outset and say that "Lamento di Federico" was one of my favorite arias to sing in concert or in recital when I was still performing.  I found it balanced nicely with another aria I enjoyed singing, "Vainement, ma bien-aimée" (Aubade) from  Le Roi d'Ys by Édouard Lalo.  "E lucevan le stelle" was good for this too and depending on how much music was required, I'd sometimes do all three.  But Federico's lament was and always shall be very special to me.
 
I do not know if it's the pastoral lyric air of the intro, but I find myself almost immediately transported.  I can see the pastures stretching out below the farm of Rosa Mammai.  As Federico starts to tell L'innocente the story the half-witted little child has been begging him to tell, you can see how, as the pastures slope upward toward the tree line, the grass becomes greener.  Of course a lamb, without the oversight of the shepherd (he fell asleep, remember - it is the usual tale...), would head in that direction for the sweet tender green grass.....just up toward those trees.  Then the musical scene changes as Federico reflects that in sleep there is oblivion.  But there is no sleep or oblivion for him.  The beasts and demons that rage in Federico's heart might just as well be the great wolf that devours the helpless lamb.  The aria goes on to its predestined end and Federico knows there shall be no sleep no oblivion from this pain that nothing he knows can stop ------ Fatale vision, mi lascia!  Ah!  Mi fai tanto male! Ahimè!
The following link is my effort to "clean up" as best I can, the 1948 Toronto recording.  It's marginal, but I think there is some improvement.
 
Just for the record, here is my list of favorite "Lamentos"
1. Royal Albert Hall (1958)
2. Toronto (1948)
3. Serenade ST (1956)
4. Coke Show (1952)
 
Ciao - Tony
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Michael McAdam

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Jan 10, 2011, 12:49:43 PM1/10/11
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I like this thread also. I read a very short but pointed post above which I found interesting. Upon closer inspection, I realized it was mine from 2/15/2008...ha!
This is a real keynote aria for Lanza's art, isn't it?. I like all his renditions for different reasons as per Vince (nice sizing on the pic, my friend ;-).
I didn't realize that the interpolated high note at the end is omitted by many tenors. Pick this piece by any of the lyric tenors on YouTube (Carreras, diStefano, Schipa etc) and most choose to pass on this Gigli-originated flair.
 
Tony, check out my favourite Canadian tenor singing the aria you mentioned:
 
Let me know what you think? (being careful not to digress too much from Derek's L'Arlesiana thread here)
 
Cheers, Mike

Vincent Di Placido

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Jan 10, 2011, 1:15:44 PM1/10/11
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Lovely post Tony! Really surprised you have the Albert Hall as number 1, I think it's great don't get me wrong but 1948 & 1955 are much better performances to my ears. Would love to hear what it is about it that gives it top spot for you...
I love your impressions of the pastoral scene, you obviosly got into the heart of the songs & arias you sang/sing, sign of a good singer & interpreter :-)

Tony Partington

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Jan 11, 2011, 12:13:22 AM1/11/11
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Mike, Vince thanks for responding to my post.  Mike, it must be wonderful to realize that you are indeed an insightful and erudite afficianado when it comes to the subject of Lanza.  Little did you know until you saw that keen post from 2008 and realized, by golly, it was by you.  Now you have official confirmation that you do indeed know a thing or two.
 
As for your Canadian fellow Verreau, he's wonderful doing the Aubade.  His voice is well suited to the piece and he uses the voix mixte nicely.  That's one of the great things about that aria I think, you have to the head voice (but the true voix mixte) and that is a challege for a singer, but it's also a thrill for you when your voice works well and you can accomplish it.  Thanks so much for sharing Mike.  What's the story on Verreau?  Did he have a major career?  If so, where?  As I say, I like his voice very much.  Now he might do a nice job on "Lamento di Federico."
 
Vince, in answer to your question about my choice of the RAH performance as #1 in my order of the four Lamento's of Lanza.  I'll tell you my friend, I love live, in perfromance recordings.  In fact, I'll happliy sacrifice pristine studio fidelity for the electricity of a live performance any time.  I know what you're thinking, well the Toronto recording is live and, as you say, you feel it's sung better than the RAH one.  I don't know, all I can tell you is the RAH performance has an almost visceral effect upon me - every time I hear it.  It always has.  I don't know if it's the energy in Lanza's voice itself, the connection he's making with the audience just moments after being overwhelmed by the size of RAH and all the people (when you look at the pix of the concert and see all the people behind him and all around him, do you see just how little a space he has to work in?), the awe perhaps on their faces as they hear this magnificent voice hit them, I don't know Vince, I have just always loved this recording.  My wife and I were talking the other night and I asked her to listen to the Toronto performance and the the one I tried to clean up and I asked her what she thought.  She said it was beautiful, Mario's voice was beautiful, lyric and effortless.  Then she said, but you know, nothing is quite like his performance at Royal Albert Hall.  I said, do you think so?  And she said, oh yes.  That performance is simply amazing.  I can understand why some people might have applauded only slightly or perhaps not at all.  They didn't know what just hit them.
 
I think she put it perfectly.  They didn't know what hit them and I think that intensity, that magic is clearly evident in the recording.  At least it is for me.  I realise that he was in better shape vocally and physically in 1956 when he recorded it for SERENADE, but for me it's just not the same.  I don't know if I can explain it any better.  Funny isn't it, how we each of us are moved by different things and in different ways.  Here's a pretty good example I think.  Of all the recordings of Sergio Franchi, I think his greatest is the "Live at the Cocoanut Grove" album.  I've heard many people say the recording he did with Anna Moffo in 1963, "The Dream Duet" is his finest.  While he is certainly wonderful on that album and to hear him with Moffo is glorious, for me there's no contest.  His Cocoanut Grove album wins hands down every time.  To my ear, from the very beginning he and the audience are one and his voice is fantastic.  Here's a link to his performance of Cole Porter's "In the Still of the Night" which his musical director Neil Warner interwove with "Claire d lune."  Let me know what you think.  Ciao - Tony

Derek McGovern

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Jan 14, 2011, 6:53:35 AM1/14/11
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 Here's a link to his performance of Cole Porter's "In the Still of the Night" which his musical director Neil Warner interwove with "Claire d lune."  Let me know what you think.  Ciao - Tony
Hi Tony: Thanks for that link to Franchi's version of In the Still of the Night. I've always loved the song, and I guess for many the unusual arrangement here will be either a love-it or hate-it reaction. I'm in the latter category, I'm afraid! I found it really jarring hearing Debussy's beautiful Claire de Lune competing with Porter's melody. Sorry -- it just didn't work for me! (Poor Franchi: I was equally tough on the unconventional arrangement for his Passione...:))

If it's any consolation, I feel that there are misfires in Lanza's legacy as well where arrangements of American standards are concerned -- Make Believe, for example!  
 

Joseph Fagan

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Jan 14, 2011, 11:50:19 AM1/14/11
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Hi Tony...It was just way to slow for me......so, even tho I love that song ( I wish Mario had recorded it!),I really didn't care for this version. I do like Franchi however, just not on this one.
 But thanks for sharing!
 
Joe

Tonytenor

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Jan 14, 2011, 6:41:37 PM1/14/11
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Dear Derek & Joe: One man's poison..., as the saying goes. Thanks for
giving it a listen. Strangely enough, I really do not care much for
Lanza's recording of Cole Porter's "Night And Day." I'm not sure what
it is but I've listened to it for years and it has never impressed me
as a good fit for Mario. I guess when I stop to think about it, I
feel Mario has, in a way, too much voice for a song like "Night And
Day." It's rather odd, I love him on songs like "Begin the Beguine"
but I really don't care for his "Night And Day."

Ah well, that's the joy and wonder of music; one piece of music
appeals and moves one person greatly while the same piece leaves
another person completely cold. In the thread about the 1953
recording of "Beloved," Derek said that he thought it was the finest
English language recording Lanza ever recorded. I find that really
interesting. While I like this recording of "Beloved immensely, for
me the English language song that holds that distinction for me is
"Tell Me Tonight." I shan't go into all the reasons, etc. on this
thread we should probably move to another, already established thread,
or have Derek create one for this discussion. In all events, you've
sparked some very intersting thoughts for me.

Ciao - Tony

PS: Incidently, I don't care for Franchi's version of "Passione" at
all either. I do think he sings a lovely high note at the end
though. What he could do with his high notes and diminuendos was
fabulous, I think!

On Jan 14, 10:50 am, Joseph Fagan <jorain...@gmail.com> wrote:
> Hi Tony...It was just way to slow for me......so, even tho I love that song
> ( I wish Mario had recorded it!),I really didn't care for this version. I do
> like Franchi however, just not on this one.
>  But thanks for sharing!
>
> Joe
>
> On Fri, Jan 14, 2011 at 6:53 AM, Derek McGovern <derek.mcgov...@gmail.com>wrote:>  Here's a link to his performance of Cole Porter's "In the Still of the
> > Night" which his musical director Neil Warner interwove with "Claire d
> > lune."  Let me know what you think.  Ciao - Tony
>
> > Hi Tony: Thanks for that link to Franchi's version of *In the Still of the
> > Night*. I've always loved the song, and I guess for many the unusual

Derek McGovern

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Jan 14, 2011, 7:30:41 PM1/14/11
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Hi Tony: Interesting you should bring up Lanza's version of Night and Day. While I feel that he sings it well, I wouldn't rate it nearly as highly as his recording of Begin the Beguine. Again, the arrangement doesn't help. (Actually, we have a thread devoted to Night and Day if anyone wants to continue this discussion.)

The reason I rate Mario's 1953 version of Beloved so highly is that it brings together virtually everything that was great about his singing, particular of English-language songs. It's alternately passionate and tender, Mario's phrasing is perfection itself...and from start to finish he doesn't put a foot wrong either vocally or interpretively. It's simply a magnificent piece of singing. Is it his best recording of this genre? Well, that's subjective, of course. Others might argue that Serenade from The Student Prince or the MGM outtake of All the Things You Are deserve that honour, and I could completely understand why.

Tell Me Tonight is a thrilling piece of singing, but I'd have to admit that vocally it has a couple of rough edges. For me, it's not flawless in the way that the 1953 Beloved is.  

Yes, I agree with you about Franchi having great diminuendos.

Cheers
Derek 



Derek McGovern

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Jan 14, 2011, 7:44:38 PM1/14/11
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P.S. We also have an interesting thread devoted to Sergio Franchi here.

Tonytenor

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Jan 15, 2011, 2:01:17 AM1/15/11
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Thanks Derek! You know, I never tire of exchanging thoughts and
opinions on music and most especially Mario. It is such a delight to
have this forum and friends and lovers of music to enjoy dialogue
with. Thank you Derek for the gift you give us daily by providing
this forum and an outlet for our feellings, opinions, thoughts and
musings.

Ciao - Tony

On Jan 14, 6:44 pm, Derek McGovern <derek.mcgov...@gmail.com> wrote:
> P.S. We also have an interesting thread devoted to Sergio Franchi here<https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/mariolanza/6wspEDBUg8s>
> .

Derek McGovern

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Jan 15, 2011, 9:04:05 PM1/15/11
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Thanks for your kind words, Tony. It's always a great delight for me when I turn on the computer in the morning and find a cluster of interesting posts here. (Because of where I am in the world, most messages appear while I'm asleep.) I feel very fortunate that we've managed to attract so many people who truly feel music and want to discuss it.  

By the way, if you ever want to start a thread on My Fair Lady, then be my guest! I know that your father was closely involved with the original production, so I'm sure you must have a few stories up your sleeve that he passed on to you :) My Fair Lady is a musical close to my heart -- my own father appeared in a NZ production, and as a kid I attended all the rehearsals -- and it also occupies quite a chunk of my PhD dissertation. 

Getting back to the subject of this thread (!), like Vince, I was interested in your choice of the 1958 Lamento over, shall we say, "more correct" versions. I completely understand why you chose it -- it's a thrilling rendition; perhaps one of the intensely felt performances in Lanza's legacy. But I actually don't agree with you that Lanza is in lesser shape vocally here than he is on the 1955 Serenade version. The B natural at the end may not be quite as impressive, but the voice is stunning in its depth and power and vibrancy. No wonder Nicolai Gedda, who was present at that recital, hailed Lanza as the greatest tenor he'd heard! My favourite moment in the performance: Lanza's singing of the lines "La pace tolta è sempre a me!/ Perchè degg'io tanto penar?" Truly gripping stuff.

Incidentally, I was very moved when I learned that the principal violinist (or concertmaster, as I think you say in the States) at the Serenade recording of the Lamento was in tears at the end of that particular recording. (That came from an interview with conductor Ray Heindorf.) I can well imagine audience members at both the 1948 and the 1958 performances reacting the same way. Mario certainly inhabited this magnificent aria.

leeann

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Jan 16, 2011, 3:13:29 PM1/16/11
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There are some things one should not do while driving: text, drink alcohol, speed, for example. One should also never play the Albert Hall CD for the first time--especially on a superhighway with other fast-moving vehicles.  I was stupefied. Totally speechless. It didn't matter that I barely understood the words and didn't know L'arlesiana, and I am pretty sure the car was on automatic pilot for the duration and beyond. It still affects me the same way. If I had been in Albert Hall that night, I would've been incapable of thunderous applause for quite a while.  Best, Lee Ann

Derek McGovern

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Apr 20, 2011, 11:05:39 AM4/20/11
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Hi Lee Ann and Tony: Since you're both such great admirers of the Albert Hall Lamento di Federico, I'd thought you'd be interested to know that it's that very aria that Lanza is singing here:

I've always been fond of this photo, with its soulful capture of the man, and often wondered what he was singing here.

Then I came across this pic on an unrelated image search, and -- surprise, surprise -- the uncropped image on enlargement reveals the sheet music at that moment: L'Arlesiana. The Lamento di Federico, in other words! 

If only all Lanza "mysteries" were so easy to solve!

Cheers
Derek

leeann

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Apr 20, 2011, 9:47:24 PM4/20/11
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Derek, What an exciting discovery!  Very sleuth-ful.  You're so right! It is a wonderful moment captured, an instant of a man entangled body and heart in his singing!  And if the photograph left any question, knowing it's the Albert Hall Lamento gives a definitive answer. Thank you for uploading.  Best, Lee Ann

Derek McGovern

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Apr 21, 2011, 5:51:35 AM4/21/11
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On closer inspection, Lee Ann, I think it's Lasciatemi Morire -- the second piece on the Albert Hall programme -- that Lanza's singing here. (In fact, he looks as though he's singing those very words.) The L'Arlesiana score is to one side on its own, so it appears that Callinicos has moved on to the next selection. Oh well!

Cheers
Derek

Tony Partington

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Apr 21, 2011, 10:10:32 AM4/21/11
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Yes Derek, this has always been one of my favorite photos of Mario, probably my favorite RAH photo to be sure.  As you say, the  "soulful capture of the man."  He shapes the images for his audience, paints the picture of both the scene and life and pain of Federico.  I've often thought, oh how many times at this point, in January of 1958, had he sung this aria.  How many times he had told this story.  Yet it seems, for whatever reason, he never tired of telling it.  From the beautifully lyric reading he gave it in 1948 in Montreal to this more dramatic offering in 1958 I have always felt this was rather a perfect operatic aria for Mario.
 
There seem to be some arias that just fit him, that he wore comfortably and seemed at home with and you could tell in listening to him sing them.  Even the dreadful allegro tempi that seemed the standard on the Coke Show aria recordings could not impair or eradicate the special connection Lanza seemed to have with these certain pieces.  The arias from ANDREA CHENIER come to mind almost immediately, then TOSCA and of course I PAGLIACCI, LA BOHEME, L'ARLESIANA, MADAMA BUTTERFLY, OTELLO and indeed there are others I've no doubt absent mindedly forgotten.  The point is though, these certain pieces and thus, these certain operas would have, no doubt, been an ideal match with Mario Lanza's voice and theatrical talent.  He was comfortable with them - at home with them.  This, for me, is simply more evidence that he could have (and should have) had a career on the opera stage.
 
It's very interesting to watch the Sunday Night At The London Palladium video and see how very nervous he is, right from the beginning.  His body language betrays him totally and the close ups of him when he speaks, show a man clearly nervous, perhaps somewhat agitated and anxious.  But watch him once he starts singing.  Watch his body language then.  When he speaks after "Because You're Mine" it's almost uncomfortable for you can tell, as I say, nerves are getting the better of him.  He then introduces "E lucevan le stelle."  Even through the brief instrumental intro he shuffles his feet, puts his hands on his hips but then, when he starts to sing it is a totally differernt person.  He is completly caught up, transported to the Castel Sant'Angelo and the dawn of his last day.  It's amazing to watch!  Then, just as quickly, he comes out of it.
 
I know I have strayed far afield from the subject of this thread, forgive me, but in thinking and writing about Mario and his operatic repertoire, a flood of thoughts came to me and I wanted to share them.
 
Al the best.  Tony
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leeann

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Apr 21, 2011, 2:04:25 PM4/21/11
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Dear Derek,  Just for fun, I tried skewing, removing noise, playing with light and shadow in Photoshop, in case it were possible to see the score more clearly, or at least the patterns of the notes. I managed to make it worse rather than better. I bet Mike's photo-editing skills could have more success! (Not-so-subtle hint).

That it's not Lamento di Federico doesn't take away from the photo, though. Tony describes so clearly how Lanza seems to step away from himself, immersed in the world of the music and lyrics  as he sings and it is a wonderful moment that this photo captures.

As another aside, I also ran across something I'd never seen when I was on another research track: the complete October program of Shower of Stars that Vince provided clips of on mariolanzatenor.com  and that you write about in Confounding the Enemy. (The press certainly took hold of that earlier lip-synching Shower of Stars, didn't they--see the third and fourth rows of clippings, in the Concert and Operatic Performance Press section, also on the website.)

The almost hour-long program is on the Internet Archive. It's the raw black and white kinescope version--not pretty, but Lanza's solo performance is such an anomaly among group skits, Charlie McCarthy, musical and dancing numbers, and automobile commercials (I'm running right out to buy a Pontiac :-)). And this time, he is the only guest who isn't integrated into those other elements of the program. I wonder if Lanza and Edgar Bergen remained in contact between Lanza's earlier radio work with him and this television program. Best, Lee Ann

Derek McGovern

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Apr 22, 2011, 12:44:44 AM4/22/11
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Hi Lee Ann: Many thanks for providing that link to the entire second Shower of Stars show. The picture quality for Lanza's performance (which starts at the 29:26 mark) is actually better than on the version on our site, although our clip features better sound. Still, I wonder if it would be possible for one of our technical whizz-kids to perform some equalizing and volume-boosting magic on that Internet Archive version? Historically, it's such an important performance!

You're certainly right about Lanza's performance being "an anomaly" on that show. Tosca in the middle of all that light-hearted family fare?! Unlike the first show, which was actually quite funny (thanks mainly to Fred Clark -- whose house, incidentally, Betty Lanza was renting at the time of her death), and allowed Mario to spoof (amusingly) his reputation for being temperamental, Lanza would have been a fish out of water if he'd had to interact with his fellow guests on the second show. In any event, I'm sure he saw the second show purely as an opportunity to silence those critics who'd questioned his vocal ability after the lip-synching fiasco of the previous month. Having to learn lines and act on the programme would have been too much of a distraction for him.

Cheers
Derek   

 

Derek McGovern

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Apr 22, 2011, 12:49:49 AM4/22/11
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Hi Tony: Great post! I'm going to take the liberty of reproducing your third paragraph on our existing Palladium thread in case anyone wants to comment. (I probably will myself!)   

Steff

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Jun 1, 2011, 7:17:03 AM6/1/11
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Derek,

It looks as if the photo I attached was taken the same evening (before or after the concert) or maybe during the intermission?
I see, the original source is Damon Lanza Productions but I spotted it in a you-tube video. Just thought it would be a nice addition to the one you posted,
since Mario Lanza holds the sheet music of L'Arlesiana' in his hands. I wonder if this aria had a special meaning to him, given the fact that it was
the aria with which he opened his recitals.

Steff

L'Arlesiana.jpg
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Derek McGovern

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Jun 1, 2011, 9:20:11 AM6/1/11
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Hi Steff: I'm familiar with that photo, but I've always wondered if it was taken later in the 1958 tour, as Mario looks a bit heavier here than in the other Albert Hall pics (although he had put on a fair bit of weight in the two months since the London Palladium appearances). He was certainly bigger in April, at the end of the tour, than he had been three months earlier.

I could be wrong, though. In fact, given how often Lanza wore an ordinary lounge suit at his recitals -- telling the audience that hoary excuse about his tuxedo being lost in transit! -- perhaps this photo was from the Albert Hall, since it was taken on one of the very rare occasions on which he did wear a tux.      

Yes, I'm certain that the Lamento di Federico meant a great deal to him. 

Cheers
Derek

talond...@gmail.com

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Nov 12, 2011, 2:53:56 PM11/12/11
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Derek,  58 with 52 a very close second due to the sustain on the b, 55 then 48.
 
Incidentally, do you have a thread on nessun dorma Hollywood bowl? Best rendition I've ever heard by anyone anywhere and to me a bit sad that there are not more youtube views.
 
Lastly, E lucevan on shower of stars is his (any anyone's) best I think...
 
Including a link from Jonas Kaufmann who surely must have been influences by Lanza's dramatic interpretation of "Lamento"...I'm growing to like him more and more.
 
 
Regards,
 
Bob
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Derek McGovern

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Aug 1, 2014, 11:14:43 PM8/1/14
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Hi Bob: Welcome to this forum!

I certainly agree that Lanza's sustained high B on the 1952 Lamento is thrilling, but I'd have to say I much prefer his other interpretations of this aria. He's in the ideal lyric voice (as Cilea conceived the role of Federico) on the 1952 version, but I find his approach way too over the top here. (And the tempo is insane!) Now people might say the same about the Albert Hall version, but for my money he's simply dramatic here rather than hysterical :) I'm very fond of the Albert Hall rendition. However, I still feel that Lanza's best and most faithful version is the 1948 performance, closely followed by the vocally amazing 1955 version (which I also feel has the most beautiful opening of all his versions). 

By the way, there's also a poor (sound) quality recording of Lanza at home in 1952 singing the Lamento. Click here to listen to it (note: this link may not work for Apple Firefox users). This was probably a rehearsal for the Coke Show performance. Check out the high B!!:

Yes, we've discussed Kaufmann's live rendition of the Lamento (not too flatteringly, I'm afraid!); here's the link.

Coincidentally, on that thread I made a similar point to yours---that Kaufmann must have been listening to Lanza's Albert Hall recording beforehand :)

Do use our "search" function, as Lee Ann was helpfully suggesting here; you'll find some very interesting stuff that you may wish to respond to. The Hollywood Bowl "Nessun Dorma" has come up many times in discussion; here's one thread that examines all three Lanza versions.

As for the Shower of Stars "E Lucevan le Stelle," there's a discussion thread here that looks at all of Mario's versions of this aria, as well as my essay "Confounding the Enemy."

Happy reading, and I hope you'll consider joining us!

Cheers
Derek

Derek McGovern

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Nov 12, 2011, 11:15:59 PM11/12/11
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Whoops: the link to the 1952 home rehearsal of the Lamento didn't come through in my post above. Here it is again:

http://www.4shared.com/audio/Kh3hi3eR/Lamento_di_Federico_1952_Rehea.html
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